Sunday 3 August 2008

No role too small at National Day Parade

IT’S my belief that every Singaporean should be part of the National Day Parade at least once in his or her lifetime.

Even if it’s just guarding a door.

That’s what a colleague of mine is doing at this year’s NDP. He’s an MP, you see.

Obviously, he is not a Member of Parliament since he is my colleague, because being his colleague would make me a Member of Parliament too. And if I’m a Member of Parliament, I seriously need a haircut.

In my colleague’s case, MP stands for military police, his vocation as an
NSman. And his orders are to guard a door along a corridor during the parade at Marina Bay, where it is held this year.

This may not seem glamorous, but at least he gets to see part of the parade
from his post. It is much better than my first “participation” in the NDP 20 years ago during my full-time national service.

Since I was a medic, I was assigned to provide medical cover for the fireworks people in the unlikelihood that they set themselves on fire in addition to the fireworks. Talk about working behind the scenes. This was kilometres away. I didn’t get to see the parade at all.

Just the spectacular fireworks which thankfully went off without me having to apply any of my burn dressings on anyone.

After that, I was resigned to my fate of never seeing the NDP in person.

Then, many years after completing my full-time national service, when I was well into my 30s, I received a letter from Singapore Armed Forces telling me to report for NDP.

What? Another medical cover?

Then I found out that it was my reservist unit’s turn to represent the navy in the marching contingent.

March? At my age?

I had a job – in management! I had kids. They were the ones who should be marching. So what if the oldest was only four?

Then I thought it could be my last chance. To be part of something I had managed to see only on TV every year.

I had secretly hoped to be Guard Of Honour just to wear the No 1 ceremonial
uniform. As it turned out, I was part of the contingent forming the “2” in “NDP 2001” during the parade.

At least my kids got to see me on TV, even if I was just this little dot.

I hope that one day, they too will get to be part of the nation’s grandest annual event – even if it’s just guarding a door.

I want to ask my colleague what exactly is behind that door he will be guarding. But I’m concerned that being the dedicated serviceman that he is, if he told me, he would have to kill me.

- Published in The New Paper, 3 August 2008